I’ve written before about the play that Dr. Andrew Silver at Mercer University has written based on interviews of men and women living with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). I had the honor of reading Anya Silver’s poetry in the first reading of the play back in Washington DC pre-Covid, in October of 2019. You can read further and see the videos here. There are some portions of the play that I can only hear in the voices of those we’ve lost. You can also check out the website, IVOurLives.org, which spells out more of the details about the play.
In February of 2021, taking into consideration all of the necessary COVID adjustments, many of us traveled to Orlando, Florida to film pieces of the play, to capture on film the magic of a play written in the words of and read by those with MBC.
And magic it was.
It’s difficult for me to put into words the impact of an experience like this in the middle of COVID when we are all feeling so isolated. I am sure that many communities have been affected significantly and I think often of my grandmother and my father in law who are both in nursing homes. At the same time, those of us living with MBC are particularly vulnerable (one study revealed that those with cancer are at the same risk as those 80+) and many of us are already immunocompromised. So it was a big deal to get to hug and love on a few of my favorite people, taking into consideration who was vaccinated and who had been tested for COVID, of course.
A really big deal.
My dear friend Emily Garnett got me into the project to begin with and I was cast early on to read the poems written by Anya Silver, the wife of the playwright. Since discovering her poetry, I find myself drawn into her words every time I read them. She, as many poets do, puts complex emotions and issues into words that just sear the soul. Her talent is evident in the words she wrote and her spirit lives on as more of her poems are published to bless all of us. And yet, much of the power in her words is that she was writing from the place we now inhabit, the world of the dying while living. She also watched her friends die every day and was deeply affected by those constant losses.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of emotion and energy that was required to delve deep into the emotions and concepts behind each poem, so Friday of my trip was especially tiring. To look into the black hole that is often my feelings about MBC and draw from that well to be able to communicate the power and pathos of each poem took something I’d nearly forgotten that I could access.
And yet, it was cathartic and beautiful.
The second day, Saturday, was the day that we got to gather together as many others came to read from all over Central Florida. I got to meet in person for the first time people that I’ve only known online, in support and advocacy groups. To say that spending time with those ladies was a balm to my soul somehow seems too frivolous. We come from very different backgrounds and perspectives, but we were all united in our experience of MBC and that experience draws us together in a way that I’ve never felt before. It’s like having an instant connection that transcends most other things that might divide us.
I have met a few people during my life to whom I developed a deep connection very quickly. As an introvert, I tend to go deep with a few people. In the MBC Community, Emily Garnett was one of the those people. Amanda is another. I never know when it will happen, but am forever grateful when it does. Amanda is one of those people who is able to make the person in front of her feel like the only person in the world and her hugs are worth driving the four (4) hours to Orlando.
What a trip!! While my physical body and my emotional energy were tested by the weekend and the drive was something I won’t eagerly do again by myself, my soul was fed by the activities and, particularly, the people I got to see and spend time with. I can’t say enough about how important community is, no matter what phase of life you are in. To be around people who get you, who know what you deal with, who are eager to help, and who want the best for you is simply magic. My dear friend, Emily Garnett, used to talk about the MBC Community this way — it’s the worst club with the best people — and I totally agree with her.
Stay tuned for the amazing product of this weekend of filming — we hope to use the words and experiences of those of us living with MBC to raise money to fund research that will continue keeping us all alive until a cure for breast cancer can be found. #bcsm